MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life

MAGGIE: the dog who changed my life
Click photo to visit

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What You Can Do To Protect Your Pet from Alzheimer's

And How To Identify Cognitive Dysfunction in Your Pet

Posted By Dawn Kairns, Author of  MAGGIE the dog who changed my life A Story of Love

This article by Steve Dale was published in the USA Weekend on Feb. 27, 2011.

If everyone in America had a dog and walked it daily, our brains would benefit — and so would our dogs'. Carl Cottman, director of Alzheimer's Disease Research at the University of California-Irvine, says regular moderate exercise turns out to be healthy for our heads as well as our hearts. And the same goes for our dogs.

As Alzheimer's disease occurs in people, so does a similar syndrome in our pets, referred to as cognitive dysfunction (CD). And like Alzheimer's in people, cognitive dysfunction is increasingly common, or so it seems.

"It's always been there," says veterinary behaviorist Gary Landsberg of Thornhill, Ontario, director of veterinary affairs at Cancog Technologies. "Our pets are living longer, and we're learning much more about identifying cognitive dysfunction." Landsberg is now researching the disorder in cats.

The acronym for pet owners to identify CD is referred to as DISH:

D — Disorientation and confusion, such as attempting to walk through the wrong side of a doggie door.

I — Changes in interactions, such as an outgoing pet becoming withdrawn.

S — Sleep disturbances: cats yowling or dogs pacing overnight for no apparent reason.

H — House soiling, having "accidents."

"Cognitive dysfunction is a diagnosis of exclusion," says veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, editor of Good Old Dog. Pet owners and their veterinarians need to rule out medical problems first. Is the cat missing the box because of diabetes? Or is the dog walking into walls at night because of impaired vision?

"What makes this complicated is sometimes there is a physical problem as well as cognitive decline," Dodman says.

Early diagnosis is challenging, but it's helpful. Landsberg says the first signs are typically changes in social interactions, which tend to be more subtle in cats.

It seems cognitive changes leading to Alzheimer's in humans might be delayed, minimized or potentially even prevented with lifetime learning and activity. That's why independent-living centers are promoting computer or dance classes, and doctors have even "prescribed" that older patients return to school. Jeffrey Kaye, director of NIA-Layton Aging and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, is chair of a technology task force for the Alzheimer's Association. "Certainly, there's something to all this," he says. "There are studies in people, but it's a challenge to conduct them because you can't control what people do and the circumstances which occur in their lives. In dogs, studies are easier to control."

And cognitive decline in dogs is surprisingly similar to what it is in people. Cottman has studied cognitive decline in dogs and people. In one canine study, a group of dogs was enrolled in continuing canine education and followed an exercise protocol. The control group was fed a special anti-aging diet. All the dogs were periodically tested for cognitive skills, and Cottman couldn't believe the results.

"It was a fantasy come true because the results were so definitive, proving social interactions, exercise, enrichment and diet really do make a significant difference in dogs," he says. "We believe the same must be true for people."

Cottman adds that if you do anything, take your dog for a walk: "We know moderate exercise bolsters brains in dogs and people."

Adds Landsberg: "Delaying the onset of CD in pets enhances quality of life, until kidney disease, cancer or some other disease process inevitably occurs. I wish there was a fountain of youth. But if people and pets feel better and enjoy life longer, isn't that a kind of fountain of youth?"

See original article in USA WEEKEND by Steve Dale, Protect Your pet from Alzheimer's

No comments :